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Originally foundedas Interel Public Relations, a Slovakian subsidiary of the highly regarded Brussels-based public affairs consultancy of the same name, Seesame achieved its independence following a management buyout 10 years ago and has gone from strength to strength ever since, building on its public affairs heritage to establish itself as arguably the pre-eminent corporate affairs, issues management, and strategic communications firm in Eastern Europe—with a reputation for ethics and integrity as well as results.
Seesame has also always enjoyed success in the international awards arena, winning SABRE Awards in crisis communications and public affairs categories in 2013 and 2014, but celebrating its 20th year in business in 2017, it is a finalist for three awards—and the work involved underscores the firm’s ability to help clients deal with critical issues. For non-profit SPOSA Bratislava, the firm created the “autism simulator” to provide people with a perspective on the condition, combining its strong healthcare credentials with an innovative use of virtual reality. For the Slovak Insurance Association, it launched an intensive grassroots public affairs campaign that fended off a potentially damaging tax. And for the Myeloma Association, it created an awareness campaign to educate the Slovakian public about an invisible disease.
Under the leadership of founder and managing director Michaela Benedigova, who has more than 20 years of experience, the firm has a depth of experienced professionals unmatched in the local market: head of real estate Adriana Catlosova, public affairs practice leader Anna Michalkova and Juraj Caranek, head of the the FMCG practice) each have a decade of experience handling major issues. They serve a client list that includes Dell, Dr.Oetker, Electrolux, the European Commission, Henkel, IKEA, Pfizer, Shell, YIT, with new business in 2016 from AbbVie, adidas, and Adient. — PH
All Channels Communication (Bulgaria/Independent)
Founded in 2001 as a small and fairly traditional public relations firm, All Channels has grown to become the largest independent communications company in Bulgaria, with close to 100 people and operations expanding into the advertising, digital and experiential. The core public relations business now offers an array of services comparable to any 21st century agency, which means the ability to deliver content across paid, earned, shared and owned channels on behalf of an impressive client roster that includes Raiffeisenbank, Mobiltel (Austria Telecom subsidiary), AVON, Philips, LG, Discovery Networks, Heineken, Coca Cola, and the European Commission in Bulgaria.
New business in 2016 came from BASF, Fox International, Henkel, DHL, and DM. Highlights of the work included the launch of a new cider on behalf of Heineken, with the award-winning “Apple Thief” campaign heloing the brand gain a 35% market share in three months. The firm’s bold creative approach was also evidence in its “hijacking” of the traditionally conservative Mtel Twitter account and its “From Love to Life” campaign supporting Avon’s cause-related breast cancer efforts.
Beyond its continued growth and exceptional client work, All Channels has established itself as an industry leader with innovative employee programs like its LEADERS 2020 initiative, seeking to develop a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders. The firm also unveiled a sustainability strategy at the end of 2015, supporting the efforts of a younger generation of employees. — PH
MSLGroup (Publicis Groupe)
MSL’s Eastern European network includes 180 professionals in four branded offices, and a presence via other Publicis agencies in 11 markets—many of which are expected to add the MSL brand over the next 12 months. But the standout operations are in Poland, where MSL acquired market leader Ciszewski Public Relations in 2011, and Romania, where the firm is represented by creative powerhouse and perennial SABRE Award winner MSLGroup The Practice. The firm works across all practice areas and industry sectors, but the growth in recent years has come from the expansion of the analytics and insight function, digital and social media capabilities, and content creation—adopting some MSL tools and developing some processes of its own.
Under the leadership of CEE chief executive Sebastain Hejnowski, working closely with Publicis One in the region, the firm is increasingly involved in big integrated projects spanning not only multiple markets but also multiple disciplines, fueling healthy 9% growth in the region. The client list is impressive, including global leaders such as AstraZeneca, Bosch, Danone Nutricia, Emirates, Netflix, P&G, Reckitt Benckiser, Siemens, and Tetra Laval.
Another strong year of creative work saw the Polish operation launch the “Nathan Drake's Treasure” campaign to introduce a new game for Sony Playstation, while The Practice helped McDonald’s in Romania negotiate a tricky ownership change, and supported financial services company KRUK on a personal finance education initiative. — PH
Solski Communications (Poland/Independent)
Ryszard Solski, a veteran of Polish agency Sigma, started his own firm in 2008 with the backing of Burson-Marsteller, and quickly established the firm among the top 10 in Poland according to research published by the Association of Polish Public Relations Consultancies. In fact, with fee income growth of 56% in 2015 and a further 41% in 2016, it is by some distance the market’s fastest-growing firm, with a team of 30 now generating €2 million.
Solski’s key clients are international companies like Airbus, Amadeus, Colgate-Palmolive, Henkel, Lufthansa, Raytheon, Roca, Sanofi Pasteur, and UPS, and local companies Grycan and SMYK, as well as the industry association of plant protection manufacturers PSOR. New business in 2016 came from Bayer, Britax, CMC Markets, Lavazza, and Mastercard, as well as major project for the DG Environment of the European Commission. The firm continues to be best known for its work in corporate communications, crisis and issues management, and public affairs, with expertise in multiple sectors: defence and aviation, chemicals, construction, real estate, food and drink, travel and leisure, and pharmaceuticals.
Client work in 2016 included cause-related marketing for MasterCard, raising money for the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity via social media, and a location-based game organised by the agency’s brand marketing practice for the Smyk chain of retail stores to promote its loyalty program. The firm also underwent its own corporate identity change, dropping the Solski BM brand—although it remains an affiliate of the global agency. — PH
United Partners (Bulgaria/Independent)
Now in its 20th year—making it one of the pioneers of PR in the Bulgarian market—United Partners has worked with more than 150 clients on almost 1,400 projects—more than half of them international in scope. More recently, it has set itself a “big hairy audacious goal”—to be the “Tesla of the communications industry.” It has also put a lot of thought into the kind of values that will get it there: reliability, innovation, learning, positivity and passion.
So while the firm continues to work with some long term clients—P&G (19 years), IBM (12 years), ING (12 years), Johnson Wax (19 years), VMware, Abbvie, Bayer and H&M—it has been aggressive on the new business front, picking up assignments from Lidl, Netinfo, Tommy Hilfiger, Wella Professional, Beekind, Wishio, Bgmenu, Scania, Innovation Norway and Vivacom in the past 12 months as it grew by about 30% to end the year with a team of 30 and fees of around $1.5 million.
A full-service firm, United has experience in consumer branding, corporate reputation, public affairs, employer branding and employee engagement, experiential marketing, crisis and CSR, with newer offers including content and influencer marketing—and a new measurement methodology based on AMEC’s Barcelona Principles. Highlights of the past year include the Bayer Science Lab, designed to reveal the role of science in everyday life to primary school children; the EEMUSIC Energy Efficient Music Culture, a series of more than 150 events in 30 European countries; and pro-bono work for the Dimitar Berbatov Foundation. — PH
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